The obstacle called fear of failure

If you look around carefully, you will notice that relatively many people suffer from fear of failure in one way or another. Fear of failure can be a hindrance and can even stagnate people in daily life. Besides the fact that relatively many people know that they have a fear of failure, not everyone takes action. As if one is resigned to it. A small advantage is that sometimes something positive comes out of it.

What is it?

Fear of failure is the fear of falling short, of failing at what you do. This concerns expectations of yourself and/or others. It can hinder your functioning and depending on the extent to which it can even paralyze people. There are some forms that can be mentioned, such as:

  • Cognitive fear of failure concerns, for example, driving test, final exam, tests/exams.
  • Social fear of failure, for example, concerns giving lectures or speaking in public.
  • Motor fear of failure concerns, for example, learning to swim or cycle, sports competitions.

What we do not always classify as fear of failure, but what is part of it, is one’s own appearance.

How serious can it be?

There are quite a few gradations and while one person can overcome the challenge with some trepidation, the other is completely paralyzed by the fear of failure and can no longer function at that moment. The stress can be disorienting, causing a blockage and it can have an even greater effect if the outcome is accompanied by an assessment. These are things that he/she can normally do well. How do you recognize it, among other things?

  • No logical thinking
  • Palpitations
  • Perspire
  • Insomnia
  • Postponing things
  • Trembling limbs
  • Blackout (partial or complete)



A small positive point can be noted in the fact that some people get an extra stimulus from the tension. It can make people clearer at that moment and help them prepare for something they are really dreading. One caveat is that it does not work that way for people who have an extreme form of fear of failure.

How do you get it and how do you get rid of it?


On the one hand, a negative past can lead to fear of failure in the future. It is perhaps logical that when people have done something several times without success, they find it increasingly difficult to do it again. This can lead to people no longer daring to make an attempt. But fear of failure often arises from the pressure that arises from having to perform or the inner urge to perform (this concerns both the outside world and the inner world). Furthermore, it can also be ingrained in the DNA/character.


In extreme forms, cognitive behavioral therapy is the best method to get rid of it, and assertiveness training can also provide relief. The basic principle is that confidence in your own abilities must be restored and sometimes practicing certain things can help to strengthen confidence. Having to perform at a certain time , such as on stage or in the exam room, can also be solved by taking a special drug. A remedy that reduces panic feelings and thoughts. This is of course not a structural solution.

For example, practicing thoughts can take the form of a dream scenario instead of visualizing a doomsday scenario. Do this in as much detail as possible in your head. Another way is to listen to people in your environment who express what they do not want and turn this into what they actually want. Do this regularly and let it become a matter of course. Then apply it to your own images and do this continuously. When fear of failure threatens to emerge, you may already be more adept at reversing the process.

Positivity is actually the magic word and to master it yourself, it is good to look at all the positive points. What is going well and what could be improved is a more positive attitude than listing everything that is going wrong. You then, as it were, leave out the things that went well. Some people even convert these exercises into a kind of mantra and repeat it in their heads at any time. It then hooks itself into your brain, as it were, and can unconsciously help you in difficult moments.


Fear of failure can have far-reaching consequences and undermine your daily functioning. This is a shame, especially since something can be done about it. Depending on the extent to which, you can first work on it yourself or talk directly to a professional.

Leave a Comment